How four SUNY Institutions leveraged insights powered by AI to boost student engagement and success

With 64 highly rated institutions across New York State, the SUNY college system is an impactful and valuable fixture in higher education. The system has exceptional retention rates thanks to an extensive selection of academic programs, a diverse student population, and an exemplary team of staff/faculty dedicated to student success. Through embracing a new technology that provides targeted support to struggling students, four SUNY institutions further enhanced the student experience. 

 

In collaboration with administrators at Genesee Community College, Finger Lakes Community College, Clinton Community College, and SUNY Oswego, EdSights’ AI-powered chatbot engaged and connected with students in a more personalized way. Through scalable campaigns customized to each institution’s needs, EdSights’ research-based AI framework enabled early interventions for at-risk students, gauged student satisfaction, and provided insights into student wellness and financial insecurity. As students struggled with a myriad of issues that affected their college experience, the use of AI-powered texting at these institutions provided an intelligent support network that continuously adapted to mitigate any kind of difficulty they might face.

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Type of Institution: 2-Year, Public

Student Population: 4,735 Undergraduates

Location: Batavia, NY

Spring Temperature Check

Through a research-backed framework that continuously learns about students' needs, Genesee’s chatbot G-Dub provided direct insight into students’ perceptions about the college’s services and programs. SMS-based campaigns, like the Semester Temperature Check, allowed the institution to gauge what students liked and disliked about Genesee, making it possible for the institution to listen to students and collect qualitative perception data that would have been otherwise impossible to collect at scale. Genesee was quick to implement changes to certain services based on the feedback and requests:

Students asked for an easier way to view campus activities, so Genesee updated the format of the campus event calendar.

Clock

Students expressed an interest in extended pool and gym hours, so Genesee made adjustments to the hours of operation for recreational services.

Persistence Check-In

Instead of waiting for the start of a new semester to tally the amount of non-returning students, G-Dub also preemptively conducted a campaign to check in with students about their intention to return the Fall 2022 semester.

Through this personalized outreach, the AI instantly connected students to targeted resources based on their specific struggles. In parallel, G-Dub flagged 31 students who were unsure about re-enrolling, allowing the student success team to conduct more targeted outreach and prioritize higher impact conversations.  

“Genesee Community College’s partnership with EdSights has been invaluable and positively supported more effective communication with our students. The engaging persistence framework, web based dashboard, research and best practice framework have all assisted our efforts to support student success.”

Dr. Shelitha Williams

 Vice President for Student and Enrollment Division

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Type of Institution: 2-Year, Public

Student Population: 5,640 Undergraduates

Location: Canandaigua, NY

2-Way Communication - White Glove Concierge Service For Students

One way Finger Lakes Community College leveraged their AI chatbot was by notifying students of upcoming deadlines, important campus events, and other major announcements. Unlike an unmonitored auto-email inbox, Flick acts as a two-way line of communication. On top of proactively checking in with students, students were also encouraged to ask questions to the artificial intelligence, which instantly supplied responses 24/7 and with no staff lift.

Below is a breakdown of what students at FLCC asked their chatbot, Flick The Lake Monster:

Academics
31%
Miscellaneous 
Services
18%
17%
Financial Aid
Billing
Activities
10%
7%
5%
Dining
5%
About
2%
Top Questions Students Are Asking:

Can I see a full academic calendar?

Does the institution require students/faculty to get the Covid-19 vaccine?

How do I get tested for Covid-19?

How do I contact my advisor?

Do I have to wear a mask on campus?

Where can I get textbooks for classes?

When is Break?

Where can I get the Covid-19 vaccine?

Where is the dining hall?

Where can I find upcoming school events?

How AI Uncovered Institutional Persistence Insights

To further help support students, Flick the Lake Monster identified patterns between different academic majors and persistence risk factors. The AI’s continuous research-based check-ins with students allowed FLCC to uncover institutional insights that provide a data-driven foundation for persistence planning. 

 

Through thousands of student conversations that were automatically analyzed in real-time, Flick was able to listen to students at scale and identify behavioral patterns related to non-cognitive areas that can be challenging to measure in real-time. For example, Flick found that some majors were experiencing heightened financial insecurity while others were feeling more demoralized overall.

Any student struggling with such issues was automatically connected to a staff member or resource. Below are some of the broader trends Flick identified:
Insight 1
Insight 3

Environmental Science (Biophysical Track) students have a 15% higher risk for "Morale"

Psychology students have a 10% higher Financial risk score

Insight 2
Insight 4

Nursing students have a 9% higher risk for "Morale"

Health Care Studies students have a 10% higher Financial risk score

Type of Institution: 4-Year, Public

Student Population: 6,673 Undergraduates

Location: Oswego, NY

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They acted on the AI’s suggested interventions and facilitated changes at the institution.

They were especially proactive in reviewing the AI’s finance-related analytics and, as a result, reshaping their financial support resources.

SUNY Oswego’s Student Intervention team was a vital part of the successful implementation of their chatbot, Oz.

Financial Wellness Campaign

Oswego moved quickly. Based on this data, the student success team created an additional financial help tab on the SUNY Oswego website. In order to help students navigate their financial challenges, the institution set up a Financial Wellbeing page with financial help subtopics like budgeting, transportation costs, and finding affordable textbooks/equipment. Once the new page went live, Oz directed students to this resource whenever they expressed financial-related concerns. 

 

After Oz connected the 328 financially at-risk students to resources, it highlighted for  the Student Intervention team which students should receive additional human outreach. In a follow-up campaign in the Spring of 2022, 200 students (60% of those initially at-risk) reported they were no longer suffering from overwhelming financial distress.

“The chatbot campaigns and suggested interventions allow our campus to identify students who are not only in need of help but who are also responsive to direct intervention. Our Student Intervention Committee reviews the results of every campaign and assigns a staff member to make contact with specific students, and also helps to identify where additional points of contact or resources are necessary. We appreciate the opportunity to target our intervention efforts to those most in need.”

Dr. Kathleen Evans

Assistant Vice President of Academic Support

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Type of Institution: 2-Year, Public

Student Population: 1,060 Undergraduates

Location: Plattsburgh, NY

Maintaining steady retention at Clinton Community College is unique because the student population is largely adult learners. It is more likely for these students to juggle school with job responsibilities, family care, or outside financial obligations. With the help of AI chatbot Calvin, students are instantly connected to a useful resource and school information as soon as they need it. Powered by artificial intelligence, Calvin knows about every support service the college has to offer and caters to students’ needs across four key areas; wellness, financial distress, academic fit, and social engagement.

And he is successful! Here’s how Calvin checks in with students

I hope you decide to enroll again 🤗

Can you please share a sentence or two about what’s holding you up?
I'm curious how you're feeling. Do you plan on enrolling here at CCC next term?

[1] Yes! 🤗
[2] Unsure❓
[3] No 😢
[4] Graduating/Transferring 🎉
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Thanks for sharing, {{student.first_name}} 🙏. We're always here to help you overcome any challenge you are facing. The Academic Advising and Student Support staff is here to support you in your decision and offer advice 🤝

 

They're located in the 📍 Moore Building on the 1st floor, Room 149M Call 📞 518-562-4199

 

Learn more here 👇

https://www.clinton.edu/student-resources/academic-advising-and-student-support/default.aspx

Ability to pay tuition

2

Between Covid-19 cautious learning and balancing life’s responsibilities, it is more difficult for students to develop an on-campus support system. Calvin aims to solve that problem. Whether students attend online-only classes, live off-campus, or simply haven’t had the chance to get to know their peers/CCC staff, Calvin proactively checks in on them via SMS. As a virtual extension of CCC, Calvin supports students wherever they are. After all, he's just one text away.

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Three ways Calvin automated persistence interventions this year:

Morale

In the first month of classes, Calvin flagged 14 students who were feeling nervous/overwhelmed about the start of Spring term and flagged them for human follow up.

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Financial Means

Calvin identified 28 students who were experiencing financial distress and connected them to financial aid resources.

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Career Readiness

Calvin identified 6 students who needed help with their post-graduation job search and connected them to career planning services.

By leveraging AI, delivered via SMS, these institutions (and hundreds more) are addressing the college completion crisis in direct and meaningful ways. By including the student voice in their analysis these institutions are able to proactively reach out to students identified through EdSights’ research-backed framework for intervention earlier than traditional persistence metrics alone. 

 

Rather than being reliant on reactive interventions alone, unique campaigns like the EdSights Persistence Check-In and Mid-Semester Temperature Check provide valuable insight into how students are feeling in real-time … identifying how the key drivers of academic engagement, financial, engagement and wellness are impacting the likelihood of student persistence.